The 2022 MLS campaign has long been over and the unforgiving nature of the single-elimination Audi MLS Cup Playoffs sends another four clubs to the offseason after the Conference Semifinals, with just four teams left standing. The other 24 (plus St. Louis!) are in full offseason mode.
Here, we'll be covering three questions for every team moving forward. Think of it as an exit interview, if you will. Matt Doyle, as always, has you covered on his preeminent season-in-review for each club (FC Dallas version). Read that, too.
He has gifs. It’s tough to beat gifs.
FC Dallas reset in a big way last winter… and climbed the table in a big way this year. Dallas finished third in the West and advanced to the Conference Semifinals, where they fell to Texas rival Austin FC.
Where do things stand this offseason?
Over the past few transfer windows, FC Dallas have put together a really strong core. Appointing Nico Estevez as head coach worked out very, very well in year one, with real hope surrounding him leading this group moving forward.
Dallas gave Jesús Ferriera a new long-term contract this winter, acquired rising Argentine attacker Alan Velasco as a club-record signing and added Paul Arriola in a league-record trade. Marco Farfan was brought in via the trade market as well. Starting goalkeeper Maarten Paes arrived on loan in the winter, then made permanent in the summer… during the same window, FCD added Sebastian Lletget in another trade.
That’s five new starters and a new position for an incumbent star – a lot of positive change. This winter, one would expect much less than that with the core in place. Certainly some additions, but quality over quantity.
“I’m sure we’re on the right track, in the right direction here,” technical director Andre Zanotta told media Wednesday. “We know the expectation will be higher. We’re ready.”
The bottom of rosters always evolve, particularly with the next wave of academy talent graduating from the second team (Bernard Kamungo was already signed after starring for North Texas SC, and a few more will follow).
That quality could come from another Designated Player, though all three spots are currently filled. Franco Jara, who started just seven games this year, is out of contract soon… but not yet.
The 34-year-old is under contract through June 30. Zanotta didn’t say whether or not they could keep him on the roster without being a DP for the first half of the season, or if the only way that spot could be opened in the winter would be with him leaving (likely a buyout).
That DP spot is the best manifestation of quality over quantity for Dallas to improve. With the group they have, they don’t need a ton more upgrades, but another top-level talent would be super useful.
Can they make it happen in the winter or must they wait for the summer?
Matt Hedges has a contract option for 2023 (and 2024). He’s the club’s all-time leader in matches played and has been a rock for the defense for a decade, through different eras and varying degrees of success.
Hedges turns 33 in April, which isn’t young, but certainly isn’t old for a central defender. He missed some time with injury over the two years, though.
There isn’t a 100% guarantee yet that he’ll be back.
“Matt is a player who has more than 300 games for this club; he deserves the ultimate respect for what he represents to us and our fans,” Zanotta said. “It’s a conversation we’ll have with him and his agent. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answer for you at this point.”
Declining his option would free up significant salary space, but it would also create a huge need in central defense.
A few more thoughts: